By John Vogl
Phil Varone's first thought was he had been traded. Rochester coach Chadd Cassidy pulled the center off the ice during practice Wednesday, and Varone immediately started thinking he had to pack his bags.
He did, but he wasn't going to another organization. He was going to Buffalo.
The 23-year-old took part in the Sabres' optional skate this morning and will make his NHL debut tonight against Carolina in First Niagara Center. He'll play in the middle of Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn.
"I don't think words can describe it," Varone said. "Extremely humbled, extremely excited, nervous. It's been a long time coming. I've worked for it. I've worked my whole life for it.
"When it finally comes you don't expect it, but I feel extremely fortunate to be in this situation right now. I'm going to try and take advantage of it."
Varone (pronounced vuh-Roan-ay) leads the Amerks with 33 points, including 25 assists, in 38 games. Drafted but not signed by San Jose, he is in his third season in the Sabres' organization. No moment will be like this one.
"It brought some tears to my eyes," Varone said. "I called my parents right away. It's something I'll never forget, for sure."
To hear all of Varone's chat, click the audio file below.